Conversation

My God, It’s full of stars!”

-Dave, 2001: A Space Odyssey

One of the coolest things about being a PCV is having the opportunity to talk about ideas, thoughts, perspectives, and viewpoints with people who have never been provided the opportunity to consider such things. We are also given the opportunity to explore these same ideas from a totally different perspective than our own if we are able to listen.

I’m not talking about the classroom, either. I’m talking about everyday conversations with friends.

It’s almost as much for me as it is for them. Having to break an idea down to its component parts, look at it, translate it, and spit it back out sheds new light on it. It helps me understand it more on a fundamental level. I can see all the pieces laid bare and figure out different ways to assemble them, all the possible constructions and meanings.

I can see the essence of it more clearly;

ONE

The other day someone asked me what heartspace meant, because I had it written on the white board in my house.

I asked her, do you ever feel sad for people that you never knew, that you will never know? Do you ever feel their pain almost as if its your own? Do you ever think about people from history, from an age hundreds of years before you were born, and feel their suffering?

I told her that it’s that place where you feel connected to everything. People, trees, flowers, ants, dirt, dogs, lightning, blades of grass. Yesterday, today, tomorrow.

Maybe she understood and maybe she didn’t, but having to explain it this way shed new light on it.

IMG_4013

TWO

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend about the different ways in which we view relationships.

From what I have seen, heard, and experienced myself, Thai relationships are remarkably traditional. Monogamy is the standard. Trust is hard to earn and hard to keep. Cheating is rampant, even expected. Oftentimes when I ask why someone isn’t coming to an event, or going on a trip, the response is แฟนไม่ให้ไป, which means their partner won’t let them go.

I told my friend that I believe the best thing you do for someone you love is to let them be free, to let them choose for themselves what they want. Trying to force or compel someone you care about to do something you want is the antithesis of love, in my opinion.

The analogy that I have been using for a long time is that of a butterfly alighting on your hand. If you close your hand around the butterfly to try and keep it from getting away, you’ll crush it. If it was meant to stay, it will. If it wasn’t, holding it prisoner will only prolong suffering for both of you. You cannot make it stay without destroying it, without clipping its wings and changing it into something else.

At the end of the day, it will always leave. After a month, a year, 40 years, a lifetime. Impermanence shows itself in all things.

She thought about it for a minute and then remarked that I was weird. When I asked her why, she said something like, you don’t want to compel others but it seems like you are always trying to compel yourself.

This unexpected insight stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t have a response besides, you’re absolutely right.

THREE

One day I was sitting in the car on the way to get coffee and having a conversation with my friend who was driving. We were talking about relationships. She, a gay female, was talking about some of her personal observations about common behaviors among Thai women.

She used a lot of not-very-flattering words, like งอแง (childish), งี่เง่า (foolish), and โง่ (silly). She told me that Thai women are overly sensitive. They’re prone to sulking (ขี้งอน), jealousy (ขี้หึง), and sudden changes of mood.

I didn’t agree or disagree, mostly just listened. We did agree, however, that if you have a problem with your partner, you should talk to them about it. Otherwise, even though you may feel better about it over time, the problem will likely continue to arise again and again.

As we sat having this conversation a strange feeling came over me. It was not an entirely new feeling. I experience it from time to time and it’s always kind of exhilarating yet disorienting at the same time;

Sometimes, I think about how I spend a majority of my day comfortably speaking a foreign language and it elicits the strangest sensation — an odd combination of excitement, and a strange fear at how malleable our brains are.

Less than two years ago these sounds had absolutely no meaning to me. Now, I can sometimes speak with people in a way that feels so natural, at least as far as everyday conversation goes.

It makes me wonder; what kind of things that I experience now, which make no sense to me or have no meaning, will be an essential or even totally natural part of my life in the future? What things are there that I am completely unaware of that I’m missing entirely? Or things I wouldn’t even consider as possible at all?

I don’t mean just language, either. Ideas, philosophies, worldviews, opinions, deeply-held beliefs. Anything is possible, and the implications of that realization are simultaneously wonderful and terrifying in scope.

It’s like staring out into a vast open space. Awe-inspiring yet overwhelming in its magnitude, like a mind incapable of comprehending itself.

Lost In The City

“Self-love is a good thing but self-awareness is more important. You need to once in a while go ‘Uh, I’m kind of an asshole.”

-Louis CK

I have to admit that I am a very judgemental person.

Occasionally, I attempt to comfort myself on this count with two thoughts; 1) I believe that I can and should accept people as they are, including all of those things I see and experience from them that I feel very activated by that may cause me to judge them, and 2) that I judge myself at least as fiercely as I do others.

Now that I write it out, that second one doesn’t seem all that comforting.

This is something I am constantly working on. I do not like judging others, or myself, but I do it all the time. I remember once thinking many years ago that if my friends knew some of the things I had thought about them that they would never talk to me again. I try, whenever I can, to be kind and soft with others, to realize that they are struggling too, and that there is no right or wrong way to be.

This softness, however, always fades over time. I need to be constantly reminded to be soft to others and, maybe even more importantly, to myself.

 

I recently spent some time in Bangkok. Being there always fills me with contrasting emotions, which is activating in both good and bad ways. During this trip I found myself in a particularly salty mood. In the interest of transparency and living my truth, I wanted to bare my soul a little bit here. The darker parts, the parts that I wish I didn’t have and I certainly hoped no one would ever discover. It’s all part of the journey and so I want to share all of it.

I wrote this the first day I was there;

The City

Feeling judgemental. Comparing to home. Thinking about how selfish we all are.

Listening to a bunch of people act like just physically putting their body in a place is some kind of achievement. “Look at how much money and privilege I have,” they seem to say.

And I’m such a f–king hypocrite. I’m sitting in the same restaurant they are, waiting for my ฿250 plate of pasta so who the f–k am I to judge? I console myself by saying that I’m not like them, that I’m giving back, that I am somehow comparatively less selfish than they are. What a bunch of bullsh-t.

Why do I constantly find myself doing this?

When I overhear the spoiled white girl at the adjacent table complain to her spoiled white friends who have the privilege to come and earn college degrees in a foreign country complain about having to pay ฿40 per day to travel to and from school I just want to scream “What the f–k is wrong with you?”

I want to grab her by the hand and lead her to the house of my 12 year old student who doesn’t even have electricity, whose dad wants him to drop out of school to earn more money for the household so they don’t starve. I want to take her to school and show her the kids who wear the same unwashed government-issued white shirt and navy blue shorts/dress to school every day because they can’t afford to buy a second set or their parents don’t care enough to get it for them if they’re even around at all.

The saddest part is that even if I could it wouldn’t matter. She would point at the iPhone in my pocket, the Nike’s on my feet, and the Timbuk2 bag on my back and say, “F–k you, too, buddy!”

And she would be absolutely right.

It just fills me with so much sadness to see a $60,000 Mercedes barrel down the road past houses on stilts made of rotting wood and corrugated metal, to see people piss away thousands of dollars to go and see things that most people in the world could never even dream of seeing, to step inside a home where a single month’s rent could pay a teacher’s salary at one my schools for over 3 years.

How can people live so far above others? “Earned” or not, how do they do it? How do we do it? How do I?

This is the question that plagues me as I walk around this city and see tourists, foreigner and Thai alike, indulging themselves. This is the question that burns a hole in me as I sit and listen to backpackers speak proudly of all the places they have been, as if that actually means anything.

I would be lying if I said I hadn’t ever had similar thoughts about other volunteers with regards to privilege and complaining, or if I said I had never judged myself for the same thing.

 

I thought a lot about this after I wrote it. I think about it often. So much bile. So much anger. So lacking in compassion and empathy for others. Why?

Partly because it makes me look at my own privilege, about how far above others I live, and that’s hard for me to accept.

Partly because it just feel so goddamn unfair, and unfairness is very activating for me.

I realized that perhaps the biggest part is that I feel just as lost as all of these people I judge for being so lost. Some days I still feel like I have no idea what I want or need to be happy and fear that I never will. By judging them I am also being unkind to myself.

The only difference between us is that I am full of hubris, and this idea that I am ascending to something greater, something beyond selfishness.

What a bunch of self-righteous bullsh-t.

In spite of it all, this lost feeling comes back again and again, like a hammer slamming into the side of my head, a stark reminder;

WE’RE NOT DONE YET.

There is beauty in this perpetual struggle. A big part of that beauty to me is that we share it. We are all lost together.

-w.

Next

Why do all my relationships cause me such pain? I’m so tired of being in pain, of feeling this way. It always comes back, inexorably returning to remind me that we’re not done yet.

Someone once encouraged me to explore my pain around connection. I wonder if it’s just my pain, or if it belongs to all of us?

Why does it hurt so much to be present in the world?

All this time and effort trying, all of this perseverance, and it doesn’t seem to do any good — it doesn’t seem to get any easier for me.

Who said it would, though? Who ever said that easy was within reach?

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

-Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

Next. After. ต่อไป. หลังจากนี้.

Where will I go? What will I do there? Who will I be? What do people expect of me?

“So what’s next for you?”

This question stops me in my tracks every time. People have started asking it with increasing frequency. I still have no earthly idea how to answer it. My life feels so open, and right now that is paralyzing. I feel as if people need me to have an answer. They won’t leave me alone until I do.

Why does it seem like it’s so much easier for everyone else? I’m not even saying it is, but why does it feel that way? It feels like it’s easier for other people to choose, to know what they want. How do other people appear so certain, when all I can give as an answer is, “I don’t know yet.”

I feel like I’m running into a wall over and over again, or walking around in a dark forest looking for answers that aren’t there, or that I’m not ready to find yet.

What I really want to do more than anything else is just sit down, put my back to that wall, light up a cigarette and do nothing at all. Defiance for defiance’s sake. I’m tired of this wall. So f–k it, right? I’m tired of not accepting it, of fighting, of climbing, of musing about what may or may not be on the other side. I want to reject the entire premise. I want to walk away from the wall and just leave it be.

Because the truth is too hard to bear. I have to leave. Not today, maybe not even in 9 months, but one day. I have to leave people I love, people who feel like family.

When I was preparing for and imagining my service in Thailand, I dreamt up all kinds of scenarios about the things I would do and how it would be. I imagined eating dinner with a host family every night. I thought about teaching kids in my community how to play basketball. I fantasized about going on grand adventures with other volunteers. In the months leading up to departure I would go on Google Maps and drop the little street view guy at the end of a road up in the mountains of Thailand just to try and get a glimpse of what my life in Thailand might be like, what my home would look like.

In spite of all that predicting, I never in a million years thought that it would be like this — that this wouldn’t be “The Peace Corps Experience,” it would just be my life.

Love, connection, friendship, support, pain, struggle, family. I never thought it would feel this way. It doesn’t feel like a break, or a step to something else. It feels like part of the fabric of my life, taken altogether. Different in color and shape, but made from the same cloth and, in many ways, indistinguishable from the rest.

Now that I’m here at this point in my life, another junction where I have to choose a direction or just stop walking, I have no earthly idea what I want to do next.

I want to love. And be loved.

I want to live my truth. I want to be honest.

I want to feel unafraid.

I want to be free. From expectation, from should and should not.

I want to impact the lives of others and be impacted by them.

I want to feel deeply connected to the people in my life.

I want to feel seen.

I look at this list of things and know that I can have them anywhere. That’s part of the beauty in them. In an ideal world, these things are there for all to have, no matter their physical or geographical location. I acknowledge the immense privilege I have of being able to choose that and have access to so many of those things.

Somehow it still matters to me where I have it, though. It’s so hard to imagine or pretend that it doesn’t. But I still don’t know why.

-w.

Vessel/Vision

vessel / noun /

a :  a container […] for holding something

b :  a person into whom some quality […] is infused

As I sat in meditation one day a singular thought popped into my head. It’s one that I’ve had before;

“I am a vessel.”

“A vessel for what,” I ask myself.

The answer; an entire universe. One that only I am privy to, one that I couldn’t possibly show in its entirety, explain accurately, or represent faithfully to another human.

I can only open as many windows and doors, take down as many walls as possible and let people see in. Only then will I reach some kind of understanding. Only then will I get closer to feeling understood, understanding myself, and understanding others.

I won’t reach that place of understanding by furnishing a story, by creating something, by approximating it. I certainly can’t show it through closed doors. I can’t keep it closed up and attempt to explain such a thing, nor will that make others open up their doors for me. Then, there we are, alone in our own universes that no one else can see.

What a terrible place that would be.


vision / noun /

a :  something seen in a dream, trance, or ecstasy; especially : a supernatural appearance that conveys a revelation

b :  a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination

c :  a manifestation to the senses of something immaterial

Many years ago, during one of the most chaotic times in my life, I sat in meditation and had what some might call a vision. For the record, and as I have said many times, I do not believe in a world of spirits, visions, prophecy, magic, revelation, or the supernatural. The word vision carries with it many connotations in which I do not see truth, but it will have to do.

This vision was full of symbols; stories, lessons, representations of the people in my life, hopes, dreams, nightmares, fear, and a million other things. Cliffs, herds of animals, a raging storm, predators, guiding voices, running, earth, stone, fire, and an endless field of stars.

Never before, or since, have I been so consumed by an experience that occurred entirely within my own mind, within my own universe. For the time that I was experiencing it I did not feel as if I were present in the physical world.

Because of what was happening in my life at the time, my mind needed to find a way to show me these things. It created a story for me to follow, one that I could analyze and think about, but most importantly one that I could feel. It was something that felt real to me, that allowed me to access things I had locked away long, long before.

So, another thought occurred to me one day as I sat in meditation, trying to always bring myself back to the breath;

“What if this life is the vision?”

What if my real life is the one I thought I had seen in a vision all those years ago?

This thought was new to me. For a moment, I let myself pretend that this was possible. I asked myself, “What would that be like?”

If this life is a vision, then what is it showing me? What things that I have kept buried is it unearthing for me? What is it teaching me about myself? About others? About my connection to all things? What is it revealing to me?

What if my entire life is some kind of grand vision — one that I will look back on and contemplate upon awakening? What will I learn from it? How will it impact me?

So many questions, so few answers. I may never find them, but it’s fun to think about.

It’s true as much as it isn’t. Just like most things.

Imagine/Anxiety

The other day after my meditation practice I sat with my hands at heart center, the outside of the thumbs pressed against my chest to feel the the soft beating there. 

I imagined filling up that tiny little space between my hands. When it was full I imagined my heart coming out of my body as I opened my palms inward to catch it, to hold it. 

I was overcome with emotion and cried there, holding my heart in my open hands. One thought stood out above the din of emotions that stirred inside of me;

Look what I found.”

Imagine that you’re sitting and enjoying your dinner, when suddenly you can feel every nerve ending in your mouth at the same time. The subconscious packets of information that are constantly being sent to your brain from those nerve endings suddenly all take top priority and bunch up on top of one other. The brain, unsure of what to do about this sudden influx of sense data, panics. There must be something wrong. Your mouth is deforming at this very moment. You’re having an allergic reaction and you’re doing to die, it seems to say.

As you try to assure yourself that everything is okay, a cold sweat oozes from your pores and makes you feel like you’ve just been dunked in a vat of ice water. Your heart races, your skin tingles, you feel short of breath. In spite of the fact that you have felt this very same feeling dozens, perhaps hundreds of times, you cannot stop it or talk yourself out of it. No rational thought will stop this ball from rolling.

The alarm bells go off as your brain screams at you. There’s something very wrong with you! You know that there isn’t, but this knowledge does nothing to quench the fire that has been started. It surges as the panic floods every extremity, down to the fingernails and hair follicles.

The person sitting across from you asks if something is wrong. You respond in the affirmative, but follow by saying that you can’t really explain what is happening to you. They inquire further, looking worried.

Words strung together tumble from your clumsy mouth. Most of your effort is concentrated on making yourself sit still and not succumb to full-on panic. The part of your brain that still thinks you’re a hunter-gatherer persists in its mission to remind you that you are going to die any minute now.

You tell them that you feel afraid but you don’t know why. You tell them you feel like your mind is working itself too hard and you can’t make it stop. You tell them you know there is nothing actually wrong with you but that that won’t make the fear go away.

They are unsure how to respond. They ask you if you’re worried about something specific. You say, “I don’t know.” They sit and wonder out loud if this has ever happened to them or not. You try to finish your meal but every time you put a piece of food in your mouth the signals being sent to your brain make it impossible to keep the panic at bay.

You stop yourself a few times from getting up to go to the bathroom and cry. Eventually, you get up from the table, pay, and leave.

In the car they ask you if you feel better yet. You respond in the negative. They ask you if you want to go home and you say, “No, it’s fine. I’ll be fine.” They drive the car down the road and you reach over and grab their hand. You sit there, your fingers interlaced with theirs, and the alarm bells begin to dim ever so slightly. The amount of effort it takes to keep from tumbling over the edge lessens just enough that a slight sense of relief mixes with the fear and panic and dread.

For just a moment, the roaring torrent of water becomes a steadily flowing stream, and in this moment of clarity a genuine thought is permitted to rise to the surface, momentarily unimpeded by panic;

“I just spent the last week planning my last ten months in this place. A year from now this person and this place will no longer be a part of my life.”

You look over at them as they drive. You are flooded with a sense of loss that defies description. Heat warms your face and tears rise up to your eyes and you briefly wonder if you will worry them more by crying but decide that you don’t care. You let that feeling of loss wash over you and the thudding in your chest swells and then subsides. A crack appears in the stone and you remember that you couldn’t keep this out even if you wanted to. You wonder how it is that your body can bear such a feeling without you even being consciously aware of it. You wonder why it has to fight so hard to get through, and feel grateful that it has.

Later, with a bit more clarity, you try to explain again. You explain to them that you feel sadness at the thought of not being here. You tell them that it’s like you miss them even though they’re standing right next to you. Isn’t that such a strange feeling? How is that even possible?

You feel like they finally understand. “You’re still here,” they say.

Sometimes I wonder if my experiences are unique to me at all. Sometimes I wonder why it feels like all my dials are turned up to 10. I wonder why it is that, no matter how much emotional labor I think I’m doing, these kinds of things keep happening. No matter how open I think I’m being, the resistance is ever-present.

If I could choose not to focus on the facts of my life that are painful to accept I would. I can’t even choose to not focus on them, though, because my mind will always bring them to the forefront one way or another, no matter how much I struggle against them. So how do I accept it when I don’t even know that I’m not accepting it? Am I doomed to live this cycle over and over forever?

Even as I profess my belief that suffering is a fundamental part of human existence and is a source of great beauty, connection, and growth in our lives, I’m still searching for the path of least pain.

I just wish I had the answers to some of these questions. Maybe I never will and maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s all okay. Maybe the panic and the repression and the resistance are just as okay as the acceptance and relief and connection. Maybe there is so much beauty in this struggle that it defies explanation, defies answers.

Maybe.

หน้าฝน

You don’t want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don’t want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.”

-Mary Oliver, excerpt from Dogfish

The rain has come again.

I love the rain. I love the sound it makes at it pings on the corrugated metal roofs so abundant here in Thailand. I love giant, flashing, dark columns on the horizon, and thunder cracking and rolling across the sugar cane fields and banana orchards. I love it when the sky just opens up and dumps rain water indiscriminately on everything and everyone. I sometimes wonder how it is that everything is still here, how it doesn’t just wash away.

It also makes me wistful. The slow, steady rain and day-long cloud cover just reminds me of Portland. If I close my eyes I can almost imagine I’m standing on a street corner in Southeast Portland listening to cars cut through the rain.

Honestly, I don’t usually miss Portland — at least not as much as I thought I would before I left. I mostly just miss the feeling of being there. The cold. The way the streets feel under my feet, and all of the emotional energy of my 20’s imprinted upon the trees and stones and concrete. I miss riding my bike down a rainy street and smelling the petrichor and fallen leaves.

Rain is such a huge part of living in Portland, so it’s hard not to feel homesick when the rainy season starts. Even though it is very much not the same, it is.

IMG_3519

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be here without all of the support that I have from my friends and community. I wonder if I would be able to stand not feeling connected to the people here, if I would have gone home long ago.

I don’t know how or why, but the urgency and dissatisfaction that plagued me weeks ago has subsided a bit. Coming back to site after training felt like I was just a piece of a jigsaw puzzle being set back into place. It just clicked. Without effort, without any intentional jostling or tending. Maybe it is being reminded that I don’t need to do anything in particular to be loved, that I don’t need to try and be any certain kind of way.

If I just allow my heart to be soft, if I just let my light shine, all the things that are meant to happen will happen.

Fear comes with the possibility of not being accepted. If I show myself fully, if I allow all of the barriers to come down, the people I love will reject me. Somewhere, some day long ago the seed of an idea was planted deep within my mind;

You are a bad person.

I have a feeling I am not the only one who feels this same thing that planted so deep the roots curl right around my heart. No matter what I do, no matter how I am able to prune the leaves, trim it down, salt the earth, the roots remain and it always seems to grow back. I wonder if maybe getting rid of it isn’t the point, but trying to live with it — trying to accept that I will always think this, but that it isn’t true. It is one story among many, and I can choose not to believe it.

I haven’t been back to school yet but I feel a lot of hope for this year. I feel like I am actually ready to do something. Something specific. Something planned. Something with intent.

I am looking forward to seeing my student Rot, who was allowed to attend one of my schools for the first year of high school, the same kid whose house I visited last year. I am looking forward to trying, once again, to succeed where I have failed in the past. I am looking forward to getting to know a whole new group of students at a new school and showing them what I have been trying to teach myself for 31 years; that you don’t have to be anyone other than yourself for me to love you, or for you to love yourself.

Most of all I feel less afraid, because I know that even if I fail I have people here to support me. People who see when I am struggling and show me that they care, people who let me know every day, in their own way, that they love me.

I am the luckiest. I never thought I would be able to say that and actually believe it.

Needing

I’ve been thinking a lot about need lately (again).

One afternoon while thinking about it I realized something;

I feel resistance when I think that people need me

There is a natural resistance, a pushing back, an anxiety that swells up within me.

I started to think about why, about where that resistance comes from.

The answer is one based in fear;

Don’t need me, don’t make me a leader

I will let you down

I will disappoint you

These fears are based on a story about my life that isn’t even true anymore. Like an ancient text willing itself to become relevant again, it remains close to the core and won’t let go.

There is another side to this need;

One of my biggest fears growing up was needing others. I was so afraid that if I allowed myself to need someone that when they eventually left me (because of course they would) I would be incapable of taking care of myself.

Some days when I am sitting around at my workplace I feel as if I am living in this reality. I have come to rely so much on my friends here, on the people that I have made real connections with, that I find myself constantly seeking their attention. This is the story I am currently telling myself, even if I try not to.

20-year-old me would see this situation and pale with fright and anxiety. This used to be the scenario that I feared more than anything, so much so that I avoided letting myself get close to or need so many people — people that loved me more than I ever thought was possible.

31-year-old me feels a little frustrated, but mostly just curious. Here I am, feeling something that I used to fear with every fiber of my being, and being okay. I’m not comfortable, but I’m okay.

I just feel like I am constantly seeking. Attention, validation, love, contact. It makes it really hard to feel satisfied with anything.

I feel like an ingrate. I feel like I’m not present — or maybe even too present, in the way that I am hyper aware of the people around me at all times, so much so that it is exhausting.

Satisfaction is fleeting, if it comes at all. A deep, lovely, meaningful conversation with a dear friend just reminds me of how much I love them, and of how little time is left.

That’s the real trouble. That is the thing always teetering at the edge of my consciousness that I just can’t shake. I keep trying to be present. I keep trying to focus on the ground under my feet instead of the great, looming terminus casting its shadow upon my journey.

I am struggling to accomplish that goal.

It’s so far away, yet I’m having so much trouble not letting it steal my joy. My constant need to be seen feels like I’m trying to pack in as much as I can before it gets torn away — before I must leave.

I’m struggling with how to live with this knowledge, with this expiration date, with knowing that no matter how close I can bring these people to me, one day I won’t be here.

I need these people. I have let myself need them. Every time I feel that need while I am still sitting within arm’s reach of them it seems downright criminal not to reach out, not to test that connection and feel its strength, not to exchange energy with them. How could I not?

I want to find peace within this knowledge. As always, I am seeking peace.

I will keep trying.

Mote

Acceptance

Accept…

that you cannot explain this feeling

that you may never be able to

that it is inexplicable

Let go of this if you can 

Instead of holding onto it, try broadcasting it, like a signal sent out to the universe

Let it go and let it be formless

Let it flow out of you 

Broadcast it and don’t worry about whether or not or how it is being received, because that is something that exists beyond the boundaries of your control

Grasping will only smother the light; 

Once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light is winning.”

-Rust

A story that is both a truth and a lie;

“I find myself alone, surrounded by darkness. I can see my own body as if it is lit by pale, silvery moonlight. The inky darkness seems alive, like a black velvet cloth undulating around me.

“I look down at my hands and I notice one of them is clenched shut. A soft light burns within and makes the skin of my hand glow ever so slightly. Within that fist I can feel a warmth, and through the hairline cracks between the fingers of my clenched fist I can just barely perceive the light within.

“I want to see it, but I fear that if I open my fist the light will be swallowed up in the darkness, lost forever among the many folds and shadows.

“I can feel exhaustion seeping into the cracks of me. I can feel my hand aching with pain. That pain radiates up my arm and into my shoulder and across my back. I know I can’t hold onto the light forever. I know that holding that light prisoner is tantamount to imprisoning myself.

“In the face of the inevitable I decide to let go. I open my hand.

“The brilliant yellow light defies description, and yet is known to all. The motes of light begin to slowly float up and away. Initial panic is replaced by relief and acceptance as shafts of light radiating out from the center sweep across me and brighten the light within me that I had forgotten was there, like stoking the embers within a long-forgotten fire.

“I think about the people who handed me this priceless, yet freely given, gift and gratitude swarms in to mix with the love, joy, and fear.

“I soon realize that the darkness is not all that inhabits this place. As the motes of light drift ever upward I see them moving towards a vast ribbon of light, like a river in the sky adorned with countless floating candles. The light floats up and away and collects with the other brilliant lights in the heart-space.

“I realize then that I never could have held onto that light even if I wanted to. You can’t hold onto something that doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to everyone.”

6b44814d6190f4e371ab934912851ac8

Know that you are loved. That you deserve love.

Childish

One day, when I went on vacation with my family last month, I found myself swimming alone on a relatively small, secluded beach. A strange impulse overtook me and I dove under the water to the seabed and blindly groped around in the sand and pulled up a small stone. 

I brought the stone up to the surface and decided that this stone was mine. It was formed over millions of years and deposited in the waters at this beach so that I could come and find it. Just me. No one else

Of course that stone wasn’t made for me. It wasn’t made for anyone. But the story that I told myself about that stone on that day was as true as much as it wasn’t. Here the stone was, in my possession. Seems pretty true to me. 

The stories we tell ourselves are laden with the truth we bestow upon them, and the way we live our lives is influenced by how doggedly we persist in our belief that those stories are true;

IMG_3175

I’m trying really hard not to grasp. I feel myself doing it a lot lately — analyzing my interactions with people to see if I matter to them.

I wish I knew what it is that I need. I feel incomplete, yet I have no earthly idea what it is that I need to feel more complete.

I just want the people I care about to want to be around me, to make an effort that shows. This is a feeling that connects with emotions that stretch back across time to some of my earliest memories.

This over-analyzing makes me feel as if I am constantly seeking, never satisfied.

It seems unfair to myself. Most of all it is unfair to all of the people in my life who have connected with me, grown close to me, and supported me.

Why isn’t it enough?

The other day I tried to sit in meditation with the simple intention of just letting go. Hands on my knees, palms opened upwards to the sky in an attempt to embody this sense of not-grasping, I tried to just let go of every thought that entered my mind.

“Be formless,” I thought.

I imagined myself submerged in water. All of these people, experiences, and moments floating around me, sometimes close by, sometimes farther away, but still within reach. I tried not to grasp for them, but instead just let them float away with the current. They may come back, they may not, but I tried to just let them go.

I realized later how much this reflects my real-time, real life experience when I am feeling this way — when I am feeling “needy.”

People that I care about, that I feel activated by and connected to, float by and I want them to see me, to pay attention to me, to acknowledge me — not unlike a child. I say that with no sense of shame, or judgement, or degradation, but just an acknowledgement of how innocent that feeling is, a child wanting to be seen.

So when I don’t get it, when I don’t feel seen, I feel stuck. I find myself constantly seeking those people out, hoping to run into them.

How do I be formless? Or maybe that isn’t even possible. Maybe I should just accept myself as I am in any given moment, and not try to change into something else.

Still always that feeling that I need to watch everything, that I need to tend to my connections with people. Those connections formed without that tending, just from an honest and natural attraction to someone, a yearning to be close to them, to know them, a drawing forth — not unlike a child.

It’s only when the connection is pointed out to me, when I realize how important it has become to me that the open palm begins to close into a tightened fist in a futile attempt to hold onto it forever and ever.

How did this become the story I tell myself?

An alternate story;

During the Song Kran festival at the local government office everyone was busy with their own tasks. I tried as much as I could to help, but in the end there just wasn’t much for me to do. Feeling fairly useless, I sat and watched the games and shows that were being put on.

Just like my image of being submerged in the water, I was very aware of the people who were floating in and out around me, and there I was yearning for them to see me.

I looked around at one point and realized that so many of the people I am closest to here were all grouped together in this one area, just watching the festivities. They had no reason to all be there in that one place. There was no task, no job to perform, no one had called us all there.

Yet, there we were. We were just drawn to one another. We just wanted to be together, and we relished in each others’ silent company. No maintenance required. No grasping fist could have possibly brought about such a thing.

In that moment I felt so much a part of something greater than myself.

This story is also true.

Assemblage

IMG_3048

My family’s visit to Thailand and to my new home has left me feeling so much gratitude for the people in my life.

I feel as if it has made me more of a real, whole person in the eyes of my adopted Thai family. I am no longer just an out-of-context foreigner who tells stories about people that I may as well be making up. I now have a mother, and a brother, and a sister. They are real, and so am I.

Similarly, all of the people I talk about on the phone to my family have finally taken real form. They have faces and smiles and voices and mannerisms. Those worlds touched and exchanged their energy with one another.

The paper of understanding unfolds itself yet again and we can move forward knowing more about each other, being more human to one another.

Before my mother boarded her plane back to the States we sat down over coffee and talked about some of the things that we usually avoid talking about.

I talked to her about the missing pieces in my life, the ones that I fear will never be put back into place, the ones that leave me feeling broken. I talked to her about how I so often feel like my anxiety and fear have no immediate cause that I can identify, and that it so often comes back around to that empty space.

I don’t know how long it will take for me to accept that I may never be able to put those puzzle pieces into place, because it’s not up to me. I don’t have the piece. I don’t know that I know how to move myself closer to that acceptance. It feels so deep — so massive and central and necessary. It feels impossible.

After our talk and some public tears viewed by people who likely had no idea why these two white people were crying in the middle of the airport holding paper coffee cups, my mother hugged me and told me she just wants me to be happy. I told her, “I’m trying.”

The truth is that I’m not even sure I know how to do that. That is the truth that hurts my heart on so many lonely days.

Then I thought again about the stone and the water. In my mind I pictured water dripping onto that impossible deepness, that slab of granite sitting on my heart, and I felt a small sliver of hope that one day it will wear away, that acceptance and forgiveness are possible.

Then I can be free.

I have been thinking a lot about meaning lately.

Ultimately, I believe that the universe doesn’t care about what we do. On a cosmic scale, nothing we do matters.

In spite of this belief, I have been so deeply touched and impacted by the actions of others, even in ways I wish I hadn’t. Those surges of gratitude so powerful I feel they may burst right through my chest, and those dark, empty spaces left by missing pieces have both left their mark on me, have meant something to me, have shown me how much the things we do matter.

I have been shaken to my very core simply by interacting with other human beings. Like a programmer rewriting a source code, or an alchemist turning lead into gold, the change feels so fundamental to my being.

So I know, down to my very bones, that the things we do matter to each other. And that’s enough. I don’t need the universe to care. I just need you to care.

I just want us to share in this terrible, horrifying, beautiful dance of life, where so many things don’t make any sense, because they were never meant to.

And in that world, all we have is each other.